Transportation Center wins $3.5M federal grant

Learn more about the Mid-America Transportation Center at
Learn more about the Mid-America Transportation Center at

UNL has won a $3.5 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant promoting highway and railway safety. The award enables UNL to continue hosting the Mid-America Transportation Center, a four-state regional center researching various elements of transportation safety.

Since 2006, UNL has hosted the Mid-America Transportation Center for transportation research in collaboration with universities and state transportation agencies in Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Kansas. The Transportation Department’s $3.5 million grant means UNL will continue hosting the center for at least the next year.

“This announcement is good news for America’s truckers, rail operators and highway users because UNL is a leader in researching how to make our roads and railways safer,” said Sen. Ben Nelson, who announced the grant award Jan. 12. "UNL has done notable research in areas of transportation safety over the years, including design and development of roadside and racetrack safety technologies credited with preventing thousands of deaths and earning UNL Professor Dean Sicking ‘The National Medal of Technology and Innovation’ in 2005, which is the highest honor for technological achievement. This grant announcement continues UNL’s successes."

The UNL center has overseen research on such issues as the use of high-performance concrete, truck safety improvements at railroad crossings, the effects of driver education on truck drivers' stress, snow de-icing chemicals, speed limits, a variety of construction materials for roads and railways and a life cycle assessment of Nebraska bridges.

"Transportation is a major industry in Nebraska, which makes the university transportation center's work especially important to our state and nation," said Prem Paul, vice chancellor for research and economic development. "We are leveraging the center's research to support our economy. This is research that touches people's lives and our economy."

Paul said Sen. Nelson's support has been key in helping secure funding that has allowed UNL to host and support the transportation center's research efforts.

Larry Rilett, director of the Mid-America Transportation Center and the Keith W. Klaasmeyer Chair in Engineering and Technology said the grant’s greatest benefit is that it will allow the university to increase the number of students and faculty involved in the undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs of the center's consortium members.

“The end result will be a safer and more efficient transportation system in Nebraska and throughout the states of Region 7,” Rilett said. “This award acknowledges the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as a national leader in transportation research, education and technology transfer.

"It would not have been possible without the significant support of the Region 7 state departments of transportation, including the Nebraska Department of Roads, and our private sector partners from the trucking, railway and logistics industries."

Partner institutions are Kansas State University, Missouri University of Science and Technology, University of Iowa, University of Kansas, Prairie View A&M University and Lincoln University. There are 72 faculty partners, 143 graduate students funded and 54 undergraduates funded, 32 laboratories and research groups involving 18 disciplines participating in MATC programs through 2011.

More than 150 projects are being researched or have been completed by the Mid-America Transportation Center. A new outreach pilot program of an innovative transportation engineering after-school club for middle school students in Lincoln, engages students in science, technology, engineering and math learning. “Roads, Rails and Race Cars” has expanded to three other Lincoln public schools, including the club’s first high school. In the spring of 2011, the club plans to extend its impact to its first elementary school.

For more information on the Mid-America Transportation Center, go to